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Diminishing returns

11th March 2010

Martin Amis perhaps said it best. “It becomes a tauter challenge as you get older, your craft is much improved even though your music is sort of dying.”

Prophetic words, and ones that seven-times Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher may do well to heed.

All great sportsmen at the zenith of their careers know well – although they often forget – the wisdom of walking away while at the top; it’s important not to allow their legacy to be sullied by a descent to also-ran status.

At Interlagos in 2006, along with many others, I praised F1’s winningest driver for acknowledging the inevitable rise of a new crop of talent and climbing out of the cockpit for the last time (or so we thought).

And what a last race he ran, putting one of the moves of the season on his Scuderia Ferrari replacement, Kimi Räikkönen. A fitting way to bow out.

Three and a half years down the track and he’s back, bored with building tacky skyscrapers, advising Ferrari and falling off motorbikes.

At the recent Barcelona test he cut an ill-at-ease and unhappy-looking figure, frowning and scowling while avoiding the press whenever he could, and snapping at them when he couldn’t.

While privately he may be questioning his decision – especially since his sludge grey Mercedes isn’t quite the rocket ship that last year’s title-winning Brawn proved to be – he won’t let on publicly that he’s more than a little concerned at fighting for points rather than podiums.

One is surely left asking why? Why come back?

He’s won everything there is to win. He has nothing to prove and everything to lose.  

Sure, experience can teach you much: anticipation, strategy, manipulation of space; but unlike many skills, craft cannot compensate for the dying of the music. While he will probably win a race or three – it’s great publicity after all – my money’s on an increasingly hangdog expression as the season progresses.

It’s been interesting to see that during the four Iberian tests, Michael’s spent more than a little time cosying up to the new German wunderkind, Sebastian Vettel, no doubt keen for some of Seb’s yoof credibility.

I reckon it’s a safe bet that come corner one of race one he’ll find out that Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica et al won’t be quite so accommodating to the old timer in their midst.

Please now take a few minutes to enjoy my pictures from 2010 testing by clicking here.

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